Curry braised lamb shanks
Try spices with lamb shanks or roasted vegetables
Lemon curry braised lamb shanks with couscous: To serve, put a scoop of couscous in a wide soup bowl and top it with a lamb shank and a generous ladle of the pan juices. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
In some parts of the world, curry means a dish of seasoned food. Around here when we talk about curry, we're thinking of spice jars filled with intriguing flavors and aromas. Most commercial curry powders, made from a blend of spices, taste similar. To flavor a potful of pricey lamb shanks, I like to use vadouvan, a delicate curry made from sweet spices like cumin, coriander, curry leaves, fenugreek, turmeric, cloves and nutmeg.
Sometimes I'll cook my own vadouvan: There's a great recipe on Gourmet's website that calls for sauteing onions and roasting them with spices in the oven for an hour. A bottled version from Williams-Sonoma tastes great too. Another delicious spice blend option comes from McCormick's line for chefs — a roasted curry powder sold in large jars in some club stores. But don't let all my foodie posturing put you off: Both the lamb and the roasted vegetables taste great made with ordinary supermarket curry powders. Just be sure the jar is fresh. The color should be bright (not faded), and the aroma intense.
Like any braise or stew, browning plays an enormous role in flavor development. The shanks are browned richly; ditto for the onions and spices. After that bit of activity, you're home free while the mixture melts to goodness in the oven.
The braise generates a potful of aromatic, rich liquid. I don't want to miss a drop, so I like to cook couscous or brown rice in it; get a couple of cupsful, skim the fat and use as directed. Try curried roasted vegetables for a side dish to the lamb.
To serve, put a scoop of couscous in a wide soup bowl and top it with a lamb shank and a generous ladle of the pan juices. Then add a few spoonsful of the curry roasted vegetables. Sprinkle everything with lots of chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with toasted flat breads, such as large pitas or thick flour tortillas, warmed over a gas flame. Pass the red hot sauce (such as sriracha) and enjoy the comfort of curry.
Lemon curry braised lamb shanks with couscous
Prep: 25 minutes
Marinate: 1 to 48 hours
Cook: 2 1/2 hours
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: This recipe can be made through step 3 up to two days in advance. If so, cool after step 3 and refrigerate tightly covered. Skim off any solidified fat before reheating it gently over low heat and making the couscous.
6 lamb shanks, each about 1 pound
1 tablespoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder (or vadouvan spice blend)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large (about 1 1/4 pounds total) sweet onions, halved, thinly sliced